Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Massage -- Feeling Better than Fine

Massage is a therapeutic modality with a number of benefits. You may either be familiar or have heard of some of these like:

  • lowering blood pressure and heart rate
  • encouraging relaxation of the body, mind and spirit
  • circulating fluids such as blood and lymph and reducing edema
  • warming up the muscles before exercise
  • draining the muscles of lactic acid and other waste after exercise
  • breaking up scar tissue
  • reducing muscle pain and soreness

There's more, if you're interested. I have a full list on my website

But what about the benefits that can't be assessed with numbers or data.

What about warm fuzzies?

In the modern age, we pass by so many people that we just don't have the time to engage with. We  drive by hundreds on the highway, and pass by dozens at the grocery checkout. 

We exchange greetings and goodbyes so many times that the expression is rote rather than heartily felt. 

And that's life. 

But the difference between getting a massage from an independent LMT like me, rather than going to a spa or even just a busy doctor's office, is that you're going to know that I care. Right away.

There isn't going to be a long wait, I'm not going to avoid your eye at the cash register, and I'm not going to harbor any secret judgements about your history. I'm here to help you.

Some people have asked me, "Do you like your job? Does it bother you to touch strangers?"
And no, it doesn't. 

My job is an opportunity to connect and help other people. They are going to feel good all day and even longer, both in their body and in their heart.

Because you know when someone asks "How are you?" and expects the answer "Fine." 

And when I ask "How are you feeling today?" I really am interested. If someone says 'Fine' I'm going to keep digging.

Of course you are doing fine. But how can I make you feel better? Awesome? Great? Stupendous?

Let's work on that. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Herb Spotlight: Calendula -- calendula officinalis

Calendula or pot marigold can be grown all over the world, and this wonderful plant has been used in medicine since at least the 12th century. Known as "poor-man's saffron" the yellow leaves have been used as cooking substitution since Ancient Rome. Spanish sorcerers used it as a talisman.

Antiseptic calendula is great for any problem with skin. Often it is made into an oil, lotion or tincture. Scrapes, cuts and peeling can be covered with a little calendula oil or lotion to speed recovery.

 If used in lipbalm, calendula moistens chapped lips. For a burn, steep calendula in hot water and let it cool. Coat the skin and viola! No scars. I have even put calendula onto already healed wounds and I swear the scars are fading. It stimulates collagen production and so I am told calendula can also heal stretch marks. Externally this plant can help treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Seriously I have a friend who solved a pesky rash with this, it is amazing! Calendula can even help patients during radiation therapy to avoid skin irritation.

Calendula is antifungal and antibiotic. Ear drops of calendula oil, tincture, or infusion can ward off infection. It'll help with athlete's foot, or fungus. For yeast imbalances, calendula is a god send. Apply oil externally, drink a dropper full of tincture daily in water or drink a fresh infusion. If you soak a calendula tea bag and let it cool, placing it over the eyelid will sooth pink eye

Enjoy the anti-oxidants! Drinking calendula can help to avoid inflammation, and both viral and bacterial sickness.

Swish calendula tea or watered down tincture for sore throat, oral lesions, or thrush. Swallow to help heal gastric ulcers or other inflammatory digestive problems.

Use dried flowers in oil, tea, or tincture. It should be very yellow! Watch out, the oil may stain clothing!


  • Proceed with caution if you have an allergy to daisies, aster, ragweed or chamomile. 
  • In theory, calendula may affect conception, so discontinue use of calendula if trying to conceive.
  • In theory, calendula may also interact with the following medications: sedatives,  treatment of  high blood pressure, treatment of diabetes. 

Researched through Herb Mentor:

  • Healing with Calendula in Mountain Rose Notes by Irene Wolansky
  • Calendula by Marilene Richardson
  • Calendula on Herbalpedia 

Click Photos for Original Location

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Recipe Review-- Sweet Stuff

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars From Serious Eats


A delicious and versatile recipe made with rice flour and potato. Potato may be replaced with tapioca.  These pb bars are substantial and chewy. I feel like you could throw anything in here! For crunch I added almonds. Instead of chips I used a sugar free chocolate bar, and instead of sugar I used low-glycemic coconut sugar. The peanut butter added some stick even though I forgot my guar gum. Crumbly but good.

I love coconut sugar, but recently I learned from Tropical Traditions that coconut trees used to create palm sugar can't be used for other coconut products. Converting too many trees for the cause may affect the future availability and price of coconuts and coconut oil.

Slow Cooked Ribs with Homemade Gluten Free Barbeque Sauce From Wellness Momma

I've never made it before, but making your own barbeque sauce is a lot easier than I thought it was. I cut down on the sugar in this recipe by using mostly agave in place of honey with just a bit of molasses for color and flavor. I tossed a bunch of spices in including cinnamon, cumin and paprika. My table of four devoured two pounds of pork ribs with a few leftover.
Gluten Free Brownies from Trader Joes

This product is made with rice flour and cane sugar primarily. I LOVED them. The secret I believe is using coconut oil as your oil for the recipe--when hot you can pull it out while still gooey for sundaes. Let it cool, or put it in the fridge/freezer and it is chewy mousse style brownies. Black bean and avocado brownies are gravy but for an ice cream sundae with warm brownies...use this mix.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Herb Spotlight: Lemon Balm -- Melissa officinalis

This month's herb sustained 14th century French king Charles V in a daily tea. Although it's a member of the mint family, it has a unique lemon-honey taste. It's latin name Melissa comes from Ancient Greek mythology and in that language it means "honey bee." Temples of Diana held it sacred. It is the main ingredient in Carmelite Water, a German herbal tonic produced for seven centuries. Another of it's nicknames is "Heart's Delight"

I recently sprouted this plant in my garden, took a pinch and chewed it up. It is instantly clear how lemon balm got it's name. Melissa smells and tastes delicious, lemony sour but sweet at the same time. I plan to use this plant in muffins, ice cream, and summer ice tea. AND I can't wait to use it in a medicinal fashion.

First, off this plant is antidepressant, relaxing, and antispasmotic. That means it will relax both body and spirit. It improves mood and mental ability. If affected by SAD, this cherry plant can brighten your day and temperament. If your heart is pounding, stomach is nervous, or baby is crying, add some lemon balm. Combined with chamomile, valerian, or hops, it can be used to promote sleep. A few studies have suggested lemon balm can help the function of Alzheimer's patients.

Second, lemon balm is antiviral, antibacterial, and full of antioxidants. This plant is your friend whether you have a flu or allergies from the changing of the seasons, or would like to prevent these. If you are feverish, the leaves are cooling in some ice tea, and can help you to sweat it out. The herb is also affective in the prevention of cold sore and herpes outbreaks.

Third, lemon balm is carminative, meaning it assists in digestion and prevents gas. Try a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half in hot water. Drink after ten minutes of steeping.

And last, crush a little lemonbalm and rub it on your skin to avoid mosquito stings. Because of the mild winter in the mid-Atlantic region, I am told this summer will be a buggy one! How much nicer is it to be coated in delicious lemon scent rather than toxic chemicals? Lemon balm can also be made into an ointment for bites and inflamed sores.

Please be careful in taking this plant if you are on sedatives, thyroid or HIV medications as it may prevent the effectiveness of the medicine. However according to the Herbalpedia, "Studies indicate that the herbs slightly inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone and restricts Grave's disease, a hyperthyroid condition."

Pregnant and breast feeding woman should not take lemon balm.

Herbalpedia -- for more information and recipes!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Book Review: The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking by Sharon A Kane

Would you believe that a few short weeks ago I had never made sourdough before. Never made a starter, or fed it, or put it in the oven. The complexities of trying to do something like that for gluten free bread was way too complicated for me to figure out myself. But with this book-- The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking by Sharon A. Kane-- I feel like a pro.  This book is great for anyone with a gluten allergy, or any other kind. Having many allergies herself, Sharon has included information for you to tailor the recipes to flours you can digest most easily.

So far I've made two batches of rice and quinoa bread, hearty and delightfully sour.  It's flavor would make an amazing cheese bread if I topped it with some during the baking. I also tried my hand at the foccacia style bread, which is much spongier and would even be interesting as a pizza dough.
 I fully intend to try out every recipe in this book, and I wanted to let anyone interested know about it.

All you need is flour and water kefir. That's what creates a starter. Then it's a brand new pet--feed it two to three times a day for three to four days to get enough for a loaf. I did make a major mistake on my first bread--after mixing the batter I realized it needed six hours to rise, which would have been three in the morning! I did end up getting up early (but later than that) because I was so excited to make my first sourdough. And its worth it.

This book contains everything from loafs, to muffins, to pancakes, to carob bread, to olive loaf, etc etc. There is a lot in here! And you can definitely modify the recipes as she fills you in on the qualities of different kinds of breads and general rules of how to troubleshoot a starter gone awry.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Life As I Know It

Over the past six months I've had to come to terms with my mortality more than I've ever had to before. I don't so much mean fear for my life, as I'm not in anyway near death. But I've never broken a bone, never been in the hospital for long past infancy, and never had anything worse than mono and a very severely bruised foot. A scooter landed on it. (It looked cool)

I had to come to terms that I couldn't just tear through life like I had always done. Go go go grab a bite on the side. Repetitive movements caught up with me for the very first time. I lost my kid rubber. You know that stuff that lets kids bounce around like they just ate a bag of gummibears, knocking heads, but they still don't really hurt themselves? Yup that. I lost that.

Basically I found myself unwell on the cusp of starting a very physical career. I sought an answer that didn't involve medications. I researched on my own, talked to my doctor, herbalists, acupuncturists, and people all around me who might have knowledge to share. I turned to herbs, whole foods, a diet which spelled out for me that what was included was just as important as what wasn't. Those answers for me (and everyone is different) really shook the foundations of my lifestyle in a way I am still adjusting to. It was pretty hard to realize that corn, wheat, potatoes, and most sugars are just not in the cards for me at the moment. I do not know if this is a life long adjustment I will need to make, for that I am playing it by ear. 

There are times when I've gotten really sad. It's difficult to go out, a lot of the time it doesn't even feel worth it. There are many restaurants that can only offer me salad without the croutons. But the only way I could get through it to a happy place was to cook. Was to learn. Was to try new things and new recipes and just make this a constant in my life--what are you going to eat next? It has taken me to a place where I feel more in tune with the people who came before me. The people who had to forage the jungle and identify the food among the poisons. When things changed in my life the supermarket became a jungle, every label had to be checked carefully. It might not be life threatening, but it is unpleasant when things slip by my notice.

I've learned how to make kefir, milk and water, to make sourdough starter, bake breads, popovers, muffins and protein bars without sugar or any of my allergies. I know how to get myself in good working order: take my herbs, prepare good foods and watch what I'm doing. Took me months to figure out just how and to learn all the skills I have now.  Major accomplishment. I find myself getting into this rhythm, paying attention to all my starters and these life supporting kefir I've adopted. It kind of feels like the lifestyle I needed, the structure to hold my life together. Boil water, choose herbs, steep, and drink. Do these steps, make something good for you, make something right. It'll be there tomorrow and the next day, and so will you. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Herb Spotlight: Catnip - Nepeta cataria

So how is Catnip, our cat's favorite herb, useful for humans?

Catnip may put cats into a frenzy but for humans it is a relaxing nervine. That means it helps put you into a calm state. It reduces tension and headaches, as well as soothing menstrual cramps. It relieves nausea or indigestion caused by nerves or tension, as well.

It can help digestion in other ways, too. Catnip is a naturally antacid herb so it helps with heart-burn, and it's bitter which means it helps your organs to produce more gastric juices for digestion. It can sooth IBS, indigestion and flatulence.

It is so gentle that can be given to young children for help with fevers, diarrhea, colic, and calming down hyperactivity. Mothers can drink a tea of this herb to help breast-feeding children sleep (probably a better idea than another folk remedy-- wine)

Catnip is a great source of minerals especially potassium. This is a great quality if you have a fever and are dehydrated as potassium is a water soluble vitamin. Water soluble vitamins can be lost in urine.

How to take it? Try it in a tea, tincture or even in your salad. For a tea:
Cut the top six inches off the plant to harvest. Dry it upside down. Then steep one to two teaspoons if the herb in a cup of hot but NOT boiling water. Boiling water will evaporate some useful volatile oils in the plant.

For tinctures and more on Catnip:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Recipe Review-- Slowcooked meats and Brownies

Salsa Chicken Crockpot style from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free

Twenty minute to prepare! I skipped the tortillas (being gluten free n all) and instead served this with rice and black olives on top. I put half the sauce in the crockpot, added chicken breasts, put the rest over and cooked on high for 4 hours. Then I added cheese and let it melt into yumminess.

Black Bean & Avocado Brownies from Cara's Cravings

Believe it or not, these are absolutely delicious. While making these a friend dropped by and waved off the batter covered spoon I offered to him. "I'm on a diet." Well guess what you can have your brownies and eat them, too. These taste like the chocolate mousse type variety. Another friend would not stop talking about these after he tried it, and the ingredients are inexpensive. Be careful not to eat the whole thing, as beans and avocado might have a loosening effect! I replaced the sugar with equal parts palm sugar to make it even better for you. Instead of espresso, I added spicy hot chocolate mix I had in the kitchen.

Slowcooked Carne Asada from Faithful Provisions

I recently bought this dish at a Mexican restaurant and didn't realize it was not a slowcooked dish. So when I saw that Trader Joes sells premarinated carne asada for $6 a pound, I got a package of the sliced version and decided to make it myself. This recipe is a bit similar to the salsa chicken above, however it doesn't need any cheese, instead I topped it with fresh avocado. It was the perfect cool addition to this spicy dish. (If you don't buy the trader joe's version, I would recommend marinating the meat in your favorite spices first for extra flavor).

Crockpot Meatballs from a Year of Slowcooking

I am an Italian food snob. This month I craved meatballs and so I set out to make a gluten free version that I can eat. I made these marvelous things in about half an hour and I froze them. Next time I definitely will make an extra batch so I can have meatballs anytime. These are so good. I used a larger can of tomatoes and added onion, carrot and celery so there would be a delicious sauce with it to put over rice pasta and peas. Yum yum yum!! (FYI you probably only need a third of a cup of flour to coat the meatballs, not the 1 cup this suggests)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Astralagus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Astragalus is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine that helps strengthen the body, prevent disease and sickness, and level out the effects of stress. In fact there is so much to say about it that cutting this draft down from pages has been real hard.

It may protect us from cancer and diabetes because the plant contains antioxidants that protect from free radicals (like pomegranate, acai and the hip Indian gooseberry). Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, for preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, to lower blood pressure, to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver. Studies have shown it to be anti-viral, and it is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Thus, it's great topically for wounds, too. It may even help with seasonal allergies!

In the United States, researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced mixed results.

Read more at the University of Maryland Medical Center

A Note About Safety

At low-to-moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects. However, it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications. Astragalus may also be a mild diuretic, meaning it helps the body get rid of excess fluid. (So watch your potassium level!)

There is not much evidence about whether astragalus is safe for women who are breastfeeding or nursing. Talk to your doctor before taking any medication, including herbs.

If you take any of the following medications, you should not use astragalus without first asking your doctor:

Drugs that suppress the immune system -- Astragalus may interfere with how these drugs act. If you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or take cyclophosphamide, a medication used to reduce the chances of rejection in transplant recipients, or corticosteroids, do not take astragalus.

Lithium -- Astragalus can make it harder for the body to get rid of lithium, so dangerously high levels of the drug could build up.

University of Maryland Medical Center
Pictures from Hierbas Medicinales and Methow Valley Herbs

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Recipe Review

I've been in a cooking frenzy! Here is my review of Grain Free Nutty Carrot Breakfast Bread, Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars, and Gingery Shiitake & Cabbage Soup with Edamame.

Grain Free Nutty Carrot Breakfast Bread from Daily Bites

Omm nom nom!! This is so absolutely delicious and it doesn't use any sugar other than that which is naturally stored in dried prunes and carrots. I added a little almond flour I had lying around and a little less stevia than called for. I will definitely be putting this into the rotation, this batter would also make great muffins.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars from Cara's Cravings

Yummy! I made one batch of these last night, looked at the half empty can of pumpkin and decided to make another! There are tons of these in my freezer now. I must have eaten four or five when they were cooling and gooey so I have a feeling these will go realll fast. Aside from the pumpkin, I have enough for another future batch so this is another one for the recipe log.

Gingery Shiitake & Cabbage Soup with Edamame from Cara's Cravings

This soup is a great way to use that leftover cabbage from the borscht I made! I didn't add edamame and I cut the amount of tofu in half. Personally I don't like to eat a great deal of soy. I've read a lot of herbalists say it is really only good for you if you eat it in fermented form so that's what I go with normally. But the todu is great in the flavor of this soup which actually gets better int he fridge. The broth feels so great for me because its got so many mushrooms.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Three Resolutions Down -- Cabbage Soup and Yucca Fries

In learning how to do anything for the first time there are always things to learn from. Here's my update about my list of cooking projects to try this year.

So I liked my cabbage soup at first. I tried the recipe from Flying Apron's Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book by Jennifer Katzinger. I made the Quinoa Loaf from that book and thought it was so great in the morning with peanut butter. REALLY filling and really not very complicated being that you only need one kind of flour. Vegan recipes are rather simple in this book, which I was suprised by.

I only used 4 of the recommended 6 beets in the recipe to cut sugar but I probably could have done a little less, beets are so powerfully potent! And to tell the truth, it took me until my last bowlful to make the cashew cream for the soup. And now I need to figure out something else to do with the half cabbage I've got in the fridge...


I also recently got water kefir grains, and I have made my first batch of apple cider kefir! I have another one brewing and I have a feeling there will be a post about that pretty soon...


Yucca fries have potential but need some work. The first time I boiled a yucca chopped and peeled for an hour and then fried it up with olive oil and butter. But I think that this is a plant that must be better roasted. It is amazing in soups, because it just melts in your mouth, but fried and eaten in large quantity (because its one big root) makes me feel a little queasy. But I would try it in a roast and in the oven, so we'll see how the next one goes.

National Certification!

Just passed my National Certification Exam! Yay no more studying

photo is - Leonid Afremov BEFORE THE CELEBRATION

Monday, 23 January 2012

Goals for 2012

So things I plan to explore this year are:

Yucca fries and hashbrowns
water kefir-- fermented sodas
real gluten free sourbread
cabbage and sausage soup
kefir ice cream
homemade pasta & ravioli

and much more! but that should keep me busy for a while!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Herbalist Mystery Series!

If you'd like to learn more about herbs, a fun way to do that would be to pick up Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles Mystery Series. These books are about an ex-lawyer who opened an herbalist shop. The author cites Margarete Grieves' a Modern Herbal and other herbal works at the beginning of each chapter. For a plant lover like me, I can just eat something like this right up! Yummy easy reading. You can follow the linked picture below to the book's Goodreads page.